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Independence Celebrations

DILI (CNS): In rebuilding their nation, East Timorese should honour those who died while helping the country achieve its independence, said apostolic administrator of Dili, Bishop Carlos Belo.

Bishop Belo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his defence of human rights in East Timor, celebrated Mass on August 30 in Dili, commemorating the first anniversary of the UN-sponsored referendum that effectively ended 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

“We have to rebuild our nation, but let us not forget the people who died in helping us achieve our liberty,” the bishop told an overflow crowd of more than 4000 in Dili’s cathedral.

“We must pray to our martyrs who died for us. They see us from heaven so we must continue their sacrifice,” Bishop Belo said.

In Portuguese and Tetum, the indigenous language of East Timor, Bishop Belo spoke of his “fallen colleagues”, a reference to the four priests who were murdered in the violence that followed the September 5 announcement that the East Timorese had rejected Indonesian rule.

The bishop said that August 30 would forever be known as “liberation day” in East Timor.

“Let us thank God for allowing the people to participate in the process of liberating East Timor,” he said.

Bishop Belo, whose home was destroyed by militias, spoke briefly of last year’s violence, but urged the East Timorese to not seek revenge for past abuses.

“We must not seek vengeance, rather we must work for mercy in the seeking of justice,” he said.

Bishop Belo told the congregation that they must build a nation of peace and one that respects human rights. He called for a process of “reconciliation” where each person “seeks forgiveness and gives forgiveness”.

“We are a Catholic people who must never forget that every person deserves dignity,” he said.

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